Look to outsourcing to give your customers the technology they expect.
Whether you're a smartphone geek with the latest mobile technology or a typical mobile user who couldn't care less about showing off your gear, imagine yourself in this scenario. You're walking down the main shopping venue in your hometown talking to your call center from a mid-1980s' Motorola "brick" cell phone. No, you're not Marty McFly in Back to the Future. For 99.9 percent of those reading this column, that's how you and your contact centers appear to today's smartphone users.
Since the turn of the century (yes, you may be that out of date!), organizations have tremendously increased the amount of information they know about their customers through Web sites and smartphone applications. Yet such channels are almost never synchronized with a business's voice channels, leaving customers feeling as if they are being punished for using these lower-cost self-service channels.
Customers hate repeating information they have already provided via a Web site, IVR, or smartphone app. In fact, it's always among the top three most irritating call center attributes in nearly all customer experience surveys. VoxPeritus is seeing a shift from hold times to repeating information as the call center irritant callers most hate. It appears that the more tech-savvy consumers become, the more they expect their providers to be as well. Callers seem to understand that staffing to prevent queues at all times is expensive, but question why sharing data to support self-service doesn't pay for itself. And though we all can agree that our customers aren't always right, in this case, they are.
Our research has found that contact center executives' most frequent explanation as to why they haven't synchronized their channels is cost. The second most quoted reason is complexity coupled with risk. While these executives realize that their voice channel is critical, they wrongly assume that the solution puts their telephony infrastructure and delivery capabilities at risk.
The good news is that there are simple, low-risk, and cost-effective ways to bring your contact center out of brick-carrying mode and into the future without the need for Doc Brown, a DeLorean, or even a flux capacitor.
Here's a tip on outsourcing: Start by checking out the Web callback and smartphone offerings from Fonolo, Jacanda, Radish, and Virtual Hold. By no means is this a comprehensive list, but it should help you understand the functionality available from outsourcing partners. They all offer Webcasts that can provide insights into their approach to how to share data from your Web presence and smartphone app with your CSRs, thereby supporting use of these cost-effective self-service channels.
All of these providers use the callback model for their smartphone and Web-to-call offerings. I am not a fan of callbacks for a number of reasons—too busy, bad connection, etc. Fill in your personal situation, we all have them.
But the trade-off from complex and expensive integration to real-time inbound queues seems acceptable. If you are in a smartphone app or online in a company's Web site and need to discuss a "What the heck is this" question, wouldn't you rather accept a callback in minutes from a fully briefed CSR than have to wait in a queue and then repeat yourself? Outsourcing this functionality as soon as possible to bring your organization into this century makes a lot of sense. Do your due diligence with a smidgen of conservative reticence, and you should still end up with a strong ROI.
Do you have banking apps, airline apps, or others on your smartphone from companies that need to read this column and wake up to the 21st century? Pass on the message. Maybe we need to put their executives in a hold queue and play The Who's "Going Mobile" a few hundred times to get the point across. Doc Brown confirms that it truly isn't flux-capacitor science!
Kevin Brown is managing director at VoxPeritus, where he specializes in speech solutions consulting. He has 20 years of experience designing and delivering speech-enabled solutions in on-premises and hosted environments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @CustExperGuru.